The Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills are getting set for maybe the most anticipated AFC championship game in recent memory. No New England Patriots, two offensive powerhouses, and a showcase of the new age of NFL quarterback are on display. The top two teams in the AFC have stood strong through the challengers and now only have one obstacle separating them from the Super Bowl.
Earlier this week, Kieth went over what exactly the Bills need to do to beat the Chiefs, and today we are breaking down how exactly the Chiefs can beat the Bills:
Step One: Pound the Rock
Patrick Mahomes’ status for this Sunday is huge for the Chiefs, sure, but I would argue that there is one player whose status is more important. That player is Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
When the Chiefs and Bills played earlier this season, the story of the game was Kansas City’s ability to control the game on the ground. CEH had 161 yards on the ground and the Chiefs as a whole had 240 yards rushing, their highest total of the year by far.
Many people have suggested that the run-heavy strategy that Kansas City employed the first time would not work the second time around. That game was the highest rushing total that the Bills gave up all season, so it has to be a fluke right? It is not repeatable, right?
The Bills have given up the sixth-most rushing touchdowns in the league, the eighth-most rushing yards per attempt, and the eighth-most first downs via the rush. They have only given up the 16th most rushing yards, but that largely has more to do with their offense getting ahead of opponents and eliminating the rush as a choice. This was not even just an early-season problem, with two of their top six rush totals given up this season being their two games in the playoffs.
Running the ball against the Bills is very doable, and if the Chiefs will commit to running the ball early and often, they can enforce their will.
Step Two: Lock Down Cole Beasley
Sure, it would be really nice to put “Eliminate Stefon Diggs” here, but we want to be realistic. Stefon Diggs is probably the best wide receiver in the league and if Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters can not keep him under 100 yards, then Charvarious Ward and Bashaud “Defensive Holding” Breeland are definitely not stopping him.
However, if the Kansas City Chiefs can eliminate the Bills’ number two receiver, they can stuff the Bills’ offense and run away with the game.
Despite everything being said recently about Buffalo’s offensive momentum, the Baltimore Ravens held the Bills to their second-lowest score of the season last week. The reason the Ravens could not capitalize is that their offense took the day off and did not put points on the board. The reason that they were kept in this game until Taron Johnson’s pick-six is because they handled the Bills receivers and eliminated Cole Beasley from the game (zero catches on two targets).
How do the Chiefs replicate that success? Well, Tyrann Mathieu is playing red hot right now (Only allowed one catch for -5 yards on six targets against the Browns) and L’jarius Sneed looks like a defensive star in the making that plays very well in the middle of the field, which conveniently is where Cole Beasley does his work. Cole Beasley should have to fight through at least two linebackers every single time he tries to go across the field or get to meet Tyrann Mathieu or L’jarius Sneed if he tries to run any upfield or outside routes.
If the Bills only have one viable option in the passing game, even if that option is Stefon Diggs, then they will get suffocated by the Chiefs’ defense and not stand a chance.
Step Three: Do Not Blitz in the Red Zone
This is a rough drawing of the most ideal play the Chiefs should run in the red zone.
The Bills do not score on the ground, which is why Josh Allen is currently leading the team in rushing touchdowns (For a matter of fact, he has more receiving/rushing touchdowns than any other player on the team). Almost all of their touchdowns in the red zone come from either Josh Allen scrambling or passes to wide receivers, which means the Chiefs need to keep that from happening.
This means that the Chiefs can not risk extra coverage players rushing the passer on red-zone snaps. If you have too many pass rushers downfield, that means that either Josh Allen has a free path to pay dirt, or a receiver is running around free in the ten yards promised land. So, the Chiefs need to force Allen to throw the ball while also eliminating his options.
To do this, you need to draw up a play like the one above. The extra bodies up at the line pre-snap tell Allen to make a quick pass; which could easily force a turnover with the number of coverage players (Tyrann Mathieu HAS to be one of these players, with Bashaud Breeland on the other side preferably). Each player gets covered, by a coverage player, with the safeties and corners providing double teams in the endzone.
Slants are eliminated by coverage linebackers and the middle linebacker running a middle zone. If Josh Allen wants to run, he has to get through the three rushing linemen and then get around at least two coverage players no matter which direction he goes. The Chiefs could even shift the coverage at the line, changing which player is and is not rushing to try and confuse the protection and get around the blocks.
If the Chiefs can hold the Bills to field goals, not touchdowns, then they win the game handily.